Instead of jumping in and telling you immediately how I answered her, I'm curious what you'd say.
Some Christians would answer that unless she believes the same way they do, she shouldn't be in church--that church is a gathering of like-minded Christians. Others would say she is welcome to attend, but definitely shouldn't join the church as a member. Still others would say she should be welcome there, but shouldn't be playing in the band, since that's leading worship and worship leadership is only for those who believe. Some go even further and say that a believer should only be in worship leadership if they're living life by some pretty righteous standards. You get a lot of opinions from Christians about who's in and who's out, in terms of the church.
In Acts 11:1-18 (MSG), Peter explains to the church that he has learned a tough lesson about judging people to be insiders and outsiders. Here's what he says:
1-3 The news traveled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it—heard that the non-Jewish “outsiders” were now “in.” When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet: “What do you think you’re doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?”
4-6 So Peter, starting from the beginning, laid it out for them step-by-step: “Recently I was in the town of Joppa praying. I fell into a trance and saw a vision: Something like a huge blanket, lowered by ropes at its four corners, came down out of heaven and settled on the ground in front of me. Milling around on the blanket were farm animals, wild animals, reptiles, birds—you name it, it was there. Fascinated, I took it all in.
7-10 “Then I heard a voice: ‘Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.’ I said, ‘Oh, no, Master. I’ve never so much as tasted food that wasn’t kosher.’ The voice spoke again: ‘If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.’ This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the sky.
11-14 “Just then three men showed up at the house where I was staying, sent from Caesarea to get me. The Spirit told me to go with them, no questions asked. So I went with them, I and six friends, to the man who had sent for me. He told us how he had seen an angel right in his own house, real as his next-door neighbor, saying, ‘Send to Joppa and get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’ll tell you something that will save your life—in fact, you and everyone you care for.’
15-17 “So I started in, talking. Before I’d spoken half a dozen sentences, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us the first time. I remembered Jesus’ words: ‘John baptized with water; you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So I ask you: If God gave the same exact gift to them as to us when we believed in the Master Jesus Christ, how could I object to God?”
18 Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. “It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”
Peter's conundrum wasn't about clean and unclean food. I mean, as a Jewish man, yes, that was an issue, and that was radical enough. But this vision was God's way of making the point that just as there's no such thing as clean and unclean food, there's no such thing as clean and unclean people. Everyone is acceptable to God. God does not play favorites.
Yet, for some reason, there are some people that many churches still don't welcome. They are deemed unworthy, or outsiders, because of the color of their skin, their disability, their citizenship status, their language, their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are told that they're not welcome to fully participate in church life unless they believe the right doctrine, unless they're baptized, unless they're tithers, or unless they measure up in some other arbitrary way. But the Bible's pretty clear that God plays no favorites.
So yesterday, I told the young woman that if I were the pastor of the church she's been attending, I'd tell her that if she's coming for the sake of community, she should keep coming. That she shouldn't pretend to be something she's not, but if she enjoys playing the keyboard and contributing to the community in that way, she should continue to do so.
Because, what would happen if I'd told her that she should stop playing, or stop attending, because her faith wasn't "good enough?" I'd essentially have told her that she was an outsider. Her partial interest would have turned to no interest at all--and worse than that, she would have felt hurt, rejected, and alienated.
I believe that when Jesus hung on the cross, his arms were spread wide--not just in crucifixion, but in welcome. "Come to me, ALL who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest," Jesus said.
So, I told her to come, encouraged her to stay, and hoped she'd share her gifts. But I wonder...
What would you have said?
*The above conversation was real, but certain details have been changed to protect anonymity.